Parole improvements urged

Official notes lack of hearings in some counties

standardization sought

October 10, 2007|By Jennifer Skalka | Jennifer Skalka,Sun reporter

The chairman of the Maryland Parole Commission told lawmakers yesterday that counties across the state have failed to hold parole hearings for eligible inmates and that better communication is necessary among local officials, the parole commission and the Maryland Division of Parole and Probation.

During a hearing before the House Judiciary Committee, commission Chairman David R. Blumberg also said counties need to standardize the parole process for inmates of local detention centers.

"If we use the same procedure in every jurisdiction, then we won't have people falling through the cracks," he said.

Del. Joseph F. Vallario Jr., a Prince George's County Democrat who is chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, called the hearing.

"Everybody should have a parole hearing in a timely fashion," said Vallario, a defense attorney.

In Prince George's County, for example, no parole hearings were held during the past fiscal year despite overcrowding at the local correctional center.

Alfred McMurray, director of the Prince George's Department of Corrections, said 1,572 prisoners are housed there, though the county is supposed to hold a maximum of 1,332.

The county is also planning a work-release program, scheduled to begin in 2011, to address the issue. McMurray vowed to speed up the parole process for the inmates and for the safety of the county's facility.

"You will never have or hear of this problem again," McMurray promised yesterday.

Other counties also have failed to facilitate parole hearings for inmates. Calvert, too, held no hearings in the past fiscal year. Montgomery County held two hearings, St. Mary's County held four, and Garrett County held seven. Baltimore County and Frederick County held the most hearings, with 267 and 214, respectively.

Overall, the parole commission visited local detention centers 157 times and held 1,165 hearings.

The Maryland Division of Correction has held about 8,000 hearings during that time for inmates in state prisons, Blumberg said. Inmates of county detention centers are generally serving shorter sentences than those in state prisons.

Vallario said the opportunity for parole is often a factor in a judge's sentence.

"Judges are sentencing people thinking one day this person will have a parole hearing," he said. "They take that into consideration."

jennifer.skalka@baltsun.com

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